Act II Scene I

Last year, I started attending theater performances on a somewhat regular basis.  I became a subscriber to the local Repertory theater.  As a child, I can recall taking only two field-trips in school to see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and then in High School we saw the Will Rogers Follies at the Fireside Dinner Theater.  These days, I always see school buses in front of the Performing Arts Center, and that’s great considering so many arts programs are threatened to be cut from school curriculum.

I saw my largest production to date, which was a play called Ragtime and the smallest production ever, which was a one woman play called The Belle of Amherst.  Both performances were amazing on different levels.  (I won’t describe the entire plot and details of each of the plays I mention here) Ragtime had great revolving and moving sets, with a large cast, music so good that I bought the CD.  Most of the musical numbers had multi cast members participating.   Conversely, The Belle of Amherst had one set, no costume changes or music.  What amazed me was the amount of dialogue the actress had to memorize.  The play is about Emily Dickinson and how she had become very anti-social.

Jenny Wanasek portrays Emily Dickinson in Renaissance Theaterworks’ “The Belle of Amherst.” Photo by Ross Zentner jsonline.com

I have to tell you that I found the The Belle of Amherst by accident as it was not at the Repertory Theater, but at the Renaissance Theater Works.  The mailroom is located in my department at work.  So many times, dead-letter items end up in my mail box with my name scrawlled across the top.  I found a newsletter with just such a fate one day.  I think because there was a boat on it, it was directed to me.  I was looking through the pamphlet and came across people who had donated money and to what.  Browsing the names I came across a company who donated to this play.  I had wanted to see what it was, not because I am a big fan of Emily Dickinson, but because I knew that during his lifetime Charles Nelson Reilly had spent a lot of time working on the production in the 70’s.  I truly enjoyed it. 

Probably the most interesting play I have attended was in 2005 at the Legendary Ford’s Theater in Washington DC.  (The same place that President Lincoln was assassinated in.)  It was called Big River about Huckleberry Finn.  What was different was that the man who played Huck Finn was deaf and the entire time on stage he had another actor doing the speaking while he signed his lines.  It didn’t take long before you didn’t even notice the actor’s shadow.  

Then last month, I attended my first interactive play where the audience had played a part in the outcome of the show.  It was called Shear Madness and stared my favorite, local actor/comedian John McGivern.  The play takes place in a hair salon where everyone is a murder suspect.  It was so funny and contained a lot of local references and current event shout outs.  And oddly enough the woman from The Belle of Amherst was also in this play.  The problem I have with theater productions is that I’m so used to TV that I wish and wish I could watch these plays over and over again.  I can’t take them in enough, trying to memorize everything so I won’t forget it.  

Shear Madness starring John McGivern

 

Recently, folk singer Arlo Guthrie was talking about the brief period that he acted in a TV show called the Birds of Paradise, and how much enjoyed acting and getting to become someone else for the better part of a year.  I’m sure  that’s quite true, but never worked for me. 

When I was in Kindergarten, my teacher asked me if I wanted to play the smallest of the 3 Billy Goats Gruff.  I was too nervous and shy, but she asked anyway.  I’m sure now, in a gesture to get me to come out of my shell.  Then later on in my Senior year of High School, I did take the staring role in (drum roll) Grune Eier un Schinken (Green Eggs and Ham).  Ich bin Sam. Sam bin ich.  I was Sam I Am.  Our German language class was competing in the State Capitol and that was the play that was chosen.  Here, Frau Baeger thought I would be best because I could memorize the lines and had a good grasp of the language.  What I didn’t have was stage presence.  We did not win.  So I was not bit by the acting bug that way, but it did intrigue me from a spectator standpoint.

 

I started reminiscing about the plays I mentioned because of their uniqueness, but there were many more last year that I enjoyed and also called my favorites (Noises Off and The Whipping Man.)   Now, I have to sit and contemplate the play I just attended; Harvey.  I had not seen the Jimmy Stewart movie before the play so I didn’t have anything to compare it to.  Another hit production in my book.  I hope the lead actor, Jonathan Gillard Daly gets to keep the portrait painted for the play of he and Harvey. 

The Short Stop by Zane Grey

A friend of mine recommended that I read The Short Stop by Zane Grey.  It was quite unlike any story I had read by Grey before as it was not set in the old west with gunslingers.   As the title implies, it’s a baseball story and set back in the early 1900’s before million dollar contracts and performance enhancing drugs.  But that’s ok because I like baseball just as much as cowboy stories. 

You can feel Grey’s love of the sport with each play by play game he writes.  I imagine as an author he was calling the balls and strikes just as he would have liked to see a perfect game be played.  Published in 1937, the language of the text certainly takes on that era and is much different from what slang ball players would be shouting today, but it is charming none-the-less.  The book isn’t all stats and strategy though.  Grey weaves in the coming of age story with a minor love interest, and the friendships and camaraderie of the team.

Chase, the main character leaves his widowed mother and younger brother at home to seek out a new source of income that will provide for the family better than their current situation.  It seems a bit strange to think that a fellow would have a better chance of making money by becoming a baseball player because of how hard it is to break into the sport…. but that is today’s thinking.  In the beginning of the book, Chase does struggle to find a team that he can stick with.  These are not major league teams, but local  teams.  

One chapter that is strikingly controversial is when the idea of when playing baseball on Sunday becomes an issue.  I like how Zane Grey resolves this issue- I won’t spoil it for you in the event you want to read it (I’ve provided links below).  While the story of The Short Stop is fiction, I’m not certain if this part of the book has ties to reality or not.  It would require some extra research on my part now that I have completed the book.  

 

You can read the entire book for free here   The Short Stop- text

Or listen to the audio book for free here The Short Stop- audio

Thanks to LibriVox and the Gutenberg project

 

 

Flash Mob Disrupts St. Louis Symphony

I came across this story online today, but not from as many websites as I thought I would.   Sometimes news that outrages the country tends to fizzle out before a resolution.  I’m not sure in the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri fits that comment, but when I Google the story I don’t get a whole lot of results.  Information was received from the St. Louis Today stltoday.com website and the YouTube video posted below.  

A flash mob disrupted the St. Louis Symphony performance on Saturday, October 4, 2014.  Prior to the start of the performance after the intermission, two people stood up in the audience and began singing “Which Side Are You On”.   While approximately 50 more joined in from all points in the concert hall for a 5 minute “Requiem for Michael Brown”, YouTube shows videos of concert-goers being both mortified at what was going on as well as those who were clapping in support.

One thing that I noticed was how empty the Symphony was in St. Louis.  There were so many vacant seats, and there was more after the flash mobbers left.  

One quote from the YouTube story said, “Many of us are artists ourselves, so we were very cognizant to not interrupt the performance after it had already began,” Vega said. “But we still wanted it to be a disruption that left people with a seed of thought.”

The brief moments that the video camera pans to the orchestra makes it hard to tell what their reaction is.  The Conductor stands patiently with his hands in front of him.  The controversy from the comments I’ve read about it comes at the 1:14 min point in the video when a woman in the audience looks like she has just witnessed a beheading.  

I’m not sure how I feel about the flash mob.  Milwaukee is also dealing with as Milwaukee is also dealing with a police involved shooting death of a black man named Dontre Hamilton.  It makes you stop and think that something like this could just as well happened here too.  (Imagine what impact it would have made if it did happen in Milwaukee on Oct 4th when John Williams was at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra).  

It does make you think if their performance was significant enough to help their cause.  That’s the question that I have trouble answering because if I were in that situation, I probably would have been a little irked at their disruption.  However, I’m all for pounding the pavement and trying to make a difference.  

Watch the video below and decide for yourself.

 

 

John Williams

You don’t have to be a classical music lover to be able to identify famous music masterpieces. Sometimes all you have to do is go to the movies (or watch Bugs Bunny cartoons).   It is the outlet that exposes the majority of the population to this genre of music.
In my lifetime I don’t think there will be any greater composer of film scores than John Williams.  

I was lucky enough to be able to see him conduct the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra last Saturday night.  The concert was so popular that it sold out within 4 hours of tickets going on sale. Yeah…..I missed the boat and didn’t get a ticket.  Its not like you can go and find classical music ticket scalpers that easy.

Friday, one hour before the box office closed, I saw a post on facebook that 30 seats had been released and were available til 5pm.  I crossed my fingers and dialed the phone.  Success! !  I got a seat in the 2nd row.  That’s a lot closer than I’m used to sitting.  It feels like you are sitting at the feet of the musicians.  However I think it was a better deal that I missed out and got in on the extra sale because I figure I probably would have been in the balcony so far back that you cant see a thing and it feels like you’re just listening to loud music.  So sitting I the 2nd row was a blessing in disguise.  I could really see him conducting and commanding the notes to flow from the instruments the way that he wanted them to.

Its hard to pick a popular movie without John Williams putting his musical mark on it.   According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, John Williams wrote the film scores for all but one of Steven Spielberg’s movies.  How exclusive !

The listing of songs, was not initially what I had thought it would be.  I was not complaining though as the number of film scores he wrote is more than I can count.  It must be difficult to decide what to play from city to city.   I made a list of movies that I have seen, but this is not even half of what he has done.  

  1. The Towering Inferno
  2. Jaws 1 & 2
  3. Star Wars  (all 6 and including the next in the series #7)
  4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  5. Superman
  6. All the Indiana Jones Movies
  7. E.T.
  8. Space Camp
  9. Hook
  10. Jurassic Park
  11. Schindler’s List
  12. Saving Private Ryan
  13. Fiddler on the Roof
  14. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban
  15. Catch Me If You Can
  16. Lincoln
  17. The Book Thief

This is what Saturday’s line up actually contained. 

 

 

John Williams 1

Normally, during the concert I’ll watch my favorite musicians.  But this time I couldn’t see many of them so I just kept on watching John Williams.   He didn’t spend a lot of time talking to the audience, but when he did he had witty anecdotes such as when Steven Spielberg and he watched Schindler’s List together.  Williams said to Spielberg after a quiet moment alone that he deserved a better composer for such a compelling film.  Spielberg agreed…. and then added, that anyone better (than Williams) was dead. 

It’s different to hear film scores as opposed to going to hear a regular symphony.  My mind wanders all over at regular symphonic concerts.  I think that’s what makes classical music so appealing to me is because I can take a walk through my mind and day dream for 2 hours.  But with the film scores, my mind becomes the movie screen and once again I’m a little kid at the theater watching (and crying) through E.T. or I’m running along side Dr. Jones trying to escape the gigantic boulder.  

He came out for 2 encores.  First he played a song he composed called With Malice Towards None from the film Lincoln and it was at that time that he played his most popular themes- The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) and Indiana Jones.   It was fantastically amazing.  I’ve heard the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra play these before, but to hear it come from the man whose mind created these songs was indescribable.  

I will not soon forget this concert.  It’s hard to say it tops seeing Itzhak Perlman play, or hearing my favorite symphony “The Rite of Spring” live because those experiences are all so different compared to going specifically to see a composer conducting.  All I know is that I haven’t stopped talking about it since that night.  

What I didn’t expect was to see the Stage Door outside barricaded.  There were dozens of fans, and more arriving as I was leaving, standing outside waiting to see him.  Most were holding Star Wars memorabilia.  I tried to imagine if this is what it would have been like during Mozart’s time with people scrambling to get seats to see him.  

John Williams is 82 years old.  His full biography, discography and compositions can be found at this link.

 

 

John Williams 2

My First Office Job

A few days ago a friend of mine passed away and her memorial service was Friday.  It was really sad to see her two young children saying goodbye to their mom when just a few years prior it was their father who passed.  Both were my friends and former co-workers.  The husband, whom I first became friends with at Walmart  introduced me to his wife.  It was just about the time that I was graduating from college with my Paralegal degree.  She was working at a small law firm and thought perhaps I may also be able to get a job there.  So she set up an interview with one of the attorneys – and subsequently I started my career as a professional office worker.

My first office was in their tiny, walk-in-closet sized kitchen.  There was a small oval table with 2 chairs.  On one wall was the microwave, mini fridge, coffee maker.  That’s where I sat, wearing my fancy pants and having to scoot my chair in every time someone wanted to retrieve something.   I didn’t have any desk drawers, or places to keep anything.  We weren’t a poor office, it’s just that I don’t think it was really set up for me to work there.

glojek office 1

My first office – 2003

glojek office 2

2003 – my first desk and piles of work waiting for me me to complete

glojek

The outside of the law firm (left side)

Looking back on that job, I can see that college does not prepare you enough for starting in an office.  Sure they tell you all about how to look up laws and what the laws are, what the procedures in court are, and a bunch of fancy words and definitions.  In my opinion they don’t do enough to help prepare you on how to function in an office environment.  My prior jobs were totally different.  From my teenage years I was employed as a dog babysitter, a laundromat cleaner and a waitress.  It was a giant leap for me to transition into an office environment.

I was scared, but having my friend there made it so much easier.  She taught me a lot about filing, organization, and phone etiquette…. the basic things that are necessary to work as a legal secretary.  I made a lot of mistakes along the way.  I am not exactly proud of my work there, but people have to start somewhere.  I wonder how long I would have lasted if the attorney I was working for hadn’t left the firm, thus forcing my exit not long after.  Even if I had been there longer than the 8 months I was, I wouldn’t have made it anywhere else if it weren’t for the good heart, and generous kind nature of my two friends.  They were also instrumental in my getting my next big job at City Hall.  May you both rest in eternal peace.

GI Jive- Louis Jordan

Louis Jordan is my favorite Jazz singer.  I was thinking about him today and one of my favorite songs.

GI Jive

This is the G. I. Jive

Man alive
It starts with the bugler blowin’ reveille over your bed when you arrive
Jack, that’s the G. I. Jive

Roodley-toot
Jump in your suit
Make a salute
Boot!!

After you wash and dress
More or less
You go get your breakfast in a beautiful little caf they call “The Mess”
Jack, when you convalesce

Outta your seat
Into the street
Make with the feet
Reet!!

If you’re a P-V-T, your duty
Is to salute to L-I-E-U-T
But if you brush the L-I-E-U-T
The M-P makes you K-P on the Q-T

This is the G. I. Jive
Man alive
They give you a private tank that features a little device called “fluid drive”
Hey Jack, after you revive

Chuck all your junk
Back in the trunk
Fall on your bunk
Clunk!!

This is the G. I. Jive
Man alive
They give you a private tank that features a little device called “fluid drive”
Hey Jack, after you still survive
Chuck all your junk
Back in the trunk
Fall on your bunk
Clunk!!

9/11 at the White House

We’re just a few days past the 13th anniversary of 9/11, like many people, I can’t believe it’s been that long.

I was at home in bed when the first plane hit the twin towers.  I was in college and off of school that day.  My mom came running up stairs to my room telling me that New York was under attack.  In my groggy, just woken from slumber state, I remember thinking that it was too early for a baseball game.  My brain processed my mom’s message in baseball terms of them losing pretty bad.

I went downstairs to the living room and watched the endless replay of the impacts as well as the following crashes.  It was pre-cell phone era still in our household so we couldn’t get a hold of my sister who was out running her errands.  Not knowing what was going to happen next, mom and I decided to go gas up our cars and go to the grocery store for some essentials.  We managed to go to the filling station before they decided to sell a gallon of gas above $8.  (Luckily that only lasted for a little while before they were ordered to lower the prices).

I remember I didn’t feel safe until I saw President Bush speaking on TV that night.  There was one speech that I saw, he wasn’t in the Oval Office, but standing at a skinny podium somewhere.  I remember so vividly seeing him crying.

This is just a brief account of my 9/11 memories.  What I wanted to write about for this Sentimental Sunday post, was my 9/11/2006 experience.

September 2006 I was a White House Intern.  It was only our 2nd week so everything was still new to me.  I was used to security, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for an all out blockage of Pennsylvania Ave.  Normally I got off the subway from my apartment at the McPherson Square stop and walked through Lafayette Square park to get to the office.  But that day, I was not allowed to exit the park, even though all I had to do was cross the street and I was there.  I had left early enough because there was to be a special 9/11 ceremony on the South Lawn……. but not early enough for a detour.   I had to go all the way out of my way just to arrive at the same destination.  Being that I wasn’t used to wearing these fancy dress shoes it took me a long time.

So after going through regular security and getting to my office….the interns had already left for the ceremony.  I was upset, but sat at my desk, ready to work.  I sat in the room with my two immediate supervisors.  I was asked why I wasn’t at the ceremony and I explained my dilemma.  One of my supervisors told me I could go with him and he escorted me to the South Lawn of the White House.  I was given a flag pin to wear on my suit lapel. 

He and I stepped out onto the lawn and found a office co-worker and stood by her.  The lawn was divided into two rows.  I could see from the colored badges that all of the interns were on one side of the grass, and I was on the opposite side with the cabinet and upper level staff members.  I closed my coat around my badge so no one else could see who I was.

I didn’t know what the ceremony was going to entail.  I hadn’t seen the President yet, so I was kind of hoping that he would be there.  If I had been thinking intelligently, obviously he was going to be at other commemorative events in New York and such.  

I was in a state of awe like I had never been before in my life, when the doors opened and I saw who was being escorted by Vice President Cheney.  It was former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  Oh My God !  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Here is a photo from that morning.  You can’t see me in the picture, but I am standing behind the woman in white on the upper left hand corner of the picture.  In the background you see the soldiers holding the flags, and the one on the left has a rifle.  To the left of him is the woman in white and I am behind her.  

The tragedy of 9/11 will never be forgotten, and neither will this event I attended to honor those who were lost during the terror attacks.  

This photo is from the White House website which is now in archive status but still accessible here. White House Archive Web Site      

Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney stand with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain for a moment of silence on the South Lawn September 11, 2006, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. White House photo by Shealah Craighead